open forum

Antisemites ‘are now serving in Congress,’ leading Florida House candidate warns

Jared Moskowitz, who is looking to succeed Rep. Ted Deutch, made the allegation during a candidates forum

Chris O'Meara

Jared Moskowitz, Florida's director of emergency management, gestures during a news conference Sunday, April 4, 2021, at the Manatee County Emergency Management office in Palmetto, Fla.

Some Republicans serving in Congress have embraced antisemitic ideology, Jared Moskowitz, a leading candidate in the race to replace Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) in his South Florida congressional seat, warned on Monday in an event with local Jewish Democrats.

“The Republican Party has embraced this level of white supremacy. And so at the end of the day, it’s no longer where Democrats and Republicans can come together and fight antisemitism because antisemites have breached the door and are now in the Republican Party and serving in Congress,” Moskowitz said at a Broward County Democratic Jewish Caucus Candidate Forum. “We’ve got some anti-Zionists on our side. But it’s nowhere near what’s going on with Republicans.”

Moskowitz’s comments came amid the questioning of the three leading candidates in the 23rd Congressional District Democratic primary — Moskowitz, former Florida Anti-Defamation League Director Hava Holzhauer and Ft. Lauderdale Deputy Mayor Ben Sorensen — about antisemitism and Israel policy.

Moskowitz, currently a Broward County commissioner and a former state legislator and former director of emergency management for the state, said his approach to antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiment would be very similar to that of Deutch — who has gained attention for forcefully condemning some of his Democratic colleagues on the House floor — but potentially “slightly more aggressive than Ted.”

“When you’re voting against Iron Dome, which is a defensive weapon, I will stand up in the well of Congress and I will fight you whether you’re a Democrat or Republican,” Moskowitz said of Israel’s missile-defense system. Eight Democrats and one Republican voted against a supplemental Iron Dome funding measure last fall.

Moskowitz’s work in the administration of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis as director of emergency management was a sharp point of contention at the forum. Sorenson, who has recently questioned Moskowitz’s Democratic credentials, said, “Jared has been working for Ron DeSantis for years and rolled out many of his policies, and that’s not what we need as a Democrat leading us in Congress. So I look forward to sticking with Ted Deutch, his core Democratic values.”

Moskowitz defended his record, pointing to his work assisting the Jewish community during the COVID-19 pandemic, and also shot back at Sorensen.

“By the way, when Ben Sorensen needed help in Ft. Lauderdale, you know who he called? Jared Moskowitz,” he said. “Ben, I still have the text messages and emails.”

All three candidates voiced support for President Joe Biden’s reengagement with Saudi Arabia during his trip to the Middle East this week.

Holzhauer argued that Saudi Arabia’s record of human rights violations should not prevent the U.S. from working with the oil-rich kingdom.

“It’s difficult because we have imperfect partners — we’re imperfect, by the way as well, as the U.S. — but we have imperfect partners that violate human rights, and it’s difficult for us to think about bringing them in,” she said. “But I’d rather be smart than right all the time, which means I’ll take some if I can’t have it all.”

Sorensen called for Saudi Arabia to join the Abraham Accords, saying, “I think it would be excellent for President Biden, as he goes to Saudi Arabia, to engage.”

Moskowitz likewise said he “welcome[s] Saudi Arabia as part of the Abraham Accords,” to strengthen regional military opposition to Iran and potentially cultivate Saudi oil as an alternative to Russian oil — potentially through Israel.

The three also discussed their visions for a two-state solution.

Moskowitz said that returning to 1967 borders is a nonstarter, and that “Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, it’s not gonna be the capital of anywhere else. That’s not negotiable.” He accused Palestinian leadership of having done “a tremendous disservice” to Palestinians by turning down previous peace proposals, adding that “there can never be peace” as long as terrorist attacks continue.

“As Israel makes more allies in the region, it’s gonna become harder and harder for the Palestinians to get a deal that they can ultimately accept,” he added.

Holzhauer said that such a deal would likely require land swaps between Israel and the Palestinians, but that the “two parties have to come together” to reach an agreement.

“We aren’t in charge, as America, of deciding what that is,” she added. The U.S. needs to find partners on both sides, she said, who are able to come together and move forward toward peace.

Sorensen said that expanding the Abraham Accords and fighting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting Israel is critical to the pursuit of a two-state solution, and accused the Palestinian leadership of being “desirous of continuing to not find a solution.” He said it is “incumbent upon the United States to help challenge the Palestinian leadership to actually serve and focus on the people.”

Holzhauer called for the U.S. to implement mandatory Holocaust education in schools nationwide. “The Holocaust needs to be part of our curriculum as a required piece of the learning that young people do,” she argued.

Moskowitz said that every federal agency should be required to implement an antisemitism policy.